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Lufthansa, Tuifly, Virgin

The hidden messages behind aircraft registrations

Although there are certain rules regarding aircraft registrations, airlines sometimes still have some fun with them.

Some car license plates reveal something about the owner of the vehicle through the combination of numbers and letters. An abbreviation of a name or a part of the date of birth, some inside joke – people can get pretty creative. Aircraft owners also sometimes like to use the registration numbers of their planes to communicate something.

The founder of the sporting goods company Nike, Phil Knight, chose the registration N1KE for his Gulfstream, which reads like the name of his company. Airlines also sometimes hide clues in the IDs of their planes. The German Sundair. On their Airbus A320 with the registration D-ASMR, MR stands for Managing Director Marcos Rossello, while D-ANNA is dedicated to his daughter Anna.

Nod to Schauinsland

The Sundair plane D-ASGK refers to Gerald Kassner, head of Schauinsland travel company – it owns 50 percent of Sundair – and D-ASSK is supposed to refer to his son Steffen. D-ASMF hides the acronym of Markus Förster, head of the flight division at Schauinsland.

At Lufthansa, there are two jets with hidden clues in the license plates. A Boeing 747 with the registration D-ABVW is honoring German car maker Volkswagen (VW). The Jumbo is named Wolfsburg, which is where VW is headquartered. An Airbus A319, which is painted with Lufthansa’s mascot Lu, has received the registration D-AILU.

Jets with B used to fly for Air Berlin

It is actually a pretty complicated  job to incorporate the references into license plates. For instance, all aircraft registered in Germany bear a D at the front as the country code. The second letter in this country stands for the weight class: all aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of at least 20 tons are given an A. What happens after that is the decision of the airlines.

Lufthansa chooses the third letter for the manufacturer of the aircraft: I for Airbus and B for Boeing. The fourth letter stands for the aircraft type. For example, an Airbus A380 gets an M, a Boeing 747-8 a Y. Only the fifth letter is usually freely assigned.

Family name on the Airbus A380

With Tuifly, it works a little differently – it remembers where its planes came from: if the obligatory letters D and A are followed by a HL, this is reminiscent of the transport company Hapag-Lloyd, which once belonged to Tui. The former airline subsidiary Hapag-Lloyd Flug is honoured when HF follows. A TU stands for Tui, and jets with a B used to fly for Air Berlin. In the case of one Boeing 737-800, the registration is D-ATUI, while another one, D-ASUN, still carries its identification from Sun Express times.

The Portuguese wet lease specialist Hi Fly, owned by the Mirpuri family, insisted on hiding the name in the registration of their most famous aircraft. The Airbus A380 with coral reef painting, which is registered in Malta, bears the registration number 9H-MIP.

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

It can be especially entertaining to look at the abbreviations of Virgin Atlantic. Richard Branson’s airline always tries to make a connection between the registration number and the name of a plane. Just two examples: The Boeing 787 christened Miss Moneypenny is registered G-VSPY.

Another 787 has the registration G-VDIA and the baptismal name Lucy In The Sky. The complete title of the Beatles Song is “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” – DIA stands for Diamonds. Similar connections can be found on many jets from Virgin Atlantic.

In the picture gallery above you can see some of the mentioned registrations as well as an additional plane.

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